This last month I read three non-fiction titles about women’s embodied experience. The three books were very different and still fairly comparable to each other.
Notes to Self by Emilie Pine
I was so very hyped for this book – on paper it sounds like everything I love in non-fiction (themes of feminism and bodily autonomy amongst other thing) and it came so very highly recommended that I was very sure I would love it. I did not love it. It’s a perfectly fine book, interesting and important, but it also does not feel like it offers anything new. I found Pine’s language straight-forward and bordering on boring, and her ideas not particularly groundbreaking. This feels like a mean way of talking about a book that deals with so many important and heartbreaking things, but as it is, I found one of the later essays (“Something About Me” which wasn’t as polished but still felt the most real) by far the stand-out from this collection.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Content warning: infertility, miscarrriage, late still birth, alcoholism, drug abuse, rape, sexual assault
I am Telling the Truth but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi
One of my most anticipated reads of the year, this sadly did not completely work for me. I found it very difficult to spend time in Ikpi’s head – especially during the parts when her mental illness was not yet diagnosed. She unflinchingly shines a light on her behaviour without ever giving herself the benefit of filtering it through the lense of her later diagnosis. As part of her symptoms are irritability and self-hate, this made for a very difficult reading experience. I can intellectually absolutely appreciate what she achieves here, it also means that this is a book I am unlikely to ever read again.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Content warning: depictions of depression and manic episodes, eating disorders, childhood abuse, spousal abuse
The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso
I love Manguso’s writing and have been rationing her non-fiction for figurative rainy days. Her memoir about her “lost” nine years of dealing with a rare auto-immune disease and subsequent mental illness, does everything her other books does as well. She writes the most exquisite sentences and her use of paragraph breaks is wonderful, but here she also manages to give such an honest and unflinching insight into her suffering that this might be my favourite of her books so far. The book gets fairly graphic in its descriptions of different medical procedures but the matter of factness and the glimpses of Manguso’s inner life made this a really satisfying reading experience nonetheless. Manguso is as navelgazing as ever – but I happen to really like that in her memoirs.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Content warning: detailed descriptions on medical procedures, involuntary section, suicidal ideation.